I left the house and our two toddlers’ sides for the first time today in nine days. Knowing that I could not physically stay in our home and see any metaphorical fruit from the two-hour break that my husband was able to give me after he lead Morning Prayer via Facebook live this morning, I drove directly to our (closed) church. I had my husband’s key, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, and my journal (I’m in Austin, where we have been practicing social distancing, although our county is issuing a shelter-in-place tomorrow). I didn’t even make it to our church campus before I began sobbing down Loop 360. I pulled into the parking lot, and, seeing a staff member’s car whom I preferred to not see with my red and splotchy face or wave awkwardly at from six feet away, chose to simply sit in my parked Volvo and sob to T. Swift. 

This is perhaps similar to some or part of your reality, particularly if you are parenting littles. My dear friend Bonnie sobbed over a sink of dirty dishes last night as she thought about homeschooling her two boys for weeks or even months at a time. I missed a FaceTime from my sister yesterday when she called from the floor of her closet crying, hoping for a moment without her two-year-old physically attached to her as she hopped back and forth between work calls and demands for juice in the right sippy cup. Another fellow clergy spouse described to me over text her attempt to rock her daughter to sleep while trying to silence the tears streaming down her cheeks, afraid of waking her nine-month-old as she waited for her husband to get home, heavy and empty from pastoral and logistical work. We cry for the changes to our immediate daily lives and the growing pains that have come as a result. We cry because we are limited. We cry for the uncertainty, the fear, the anxiety present in our spaces, the isolation. We also cry for our world, healthcare workers, and the hospitalizations and deaths that have come and will continue to come, both afar and close to home.

And yet, it was made beyond transparent to me today that in our tears (as well as our laughter, which you might blessedly be experiencing with your family these days), Jesus is near.

For when I pulled up to our home mid-afternoon, there sat on our porch a neat little offering from a dear friend and fellow mama at church, Kristen, who happens to be a part of our bread ministry and bakes communion loafs that could pass for cheesecake every month (and also brings me tubes of the best mascara she swears by — ladies, find you a friend who shoves Bobbi Brown goodie bags into your hand during coffee hour). So as I rubbed my already puffy eyes and approached our front door, I realized that a mini-baby loaf of communion bread had literally showed up at my doorstep, and so had a carton of beautifully plump strawberries, fresh fruit that I hadn’t been able to offer my girls in a few days. Seeing “Barbie church bread” (because like, it’s miniature and doll-sized) scribbled in Sharpie across the aluminum foil, and noticing the vibrant red of the strawberries, the imagery and color was not lost on me. The body and blood. Jesus is near.

As several different ministers I follow have said recently, this is a time for churches to be the Church. To care for the weak. To shield the joyous. To lift up the lowly. To call each other. To get serious about leadership and evangelism. To pray and reflect on who Jesus is and what role He takes in our lives. This is what we are being invited into. This is what we are called to be. Which I do think is different than being a part of a neighborhood, although I really wish I could live in Daniel Tiger’s right about now. Certainly, this unprecedented time is shifting our understanding of what it means to be a neighbor. I relish the fact that I have a Zoom happy hour planned for Wednesday with ten neighborhood moms to kiddos who will be in my daughter’s eventual kindergarten class. And yes, it is a gift to see families at a distance on walks and running with dogs and encouraging little ones on balance bikes and scooters. And yet a neighborhood can only carry us so far, for it does not point directly or overtly to the cross, to the One who took on flesh and came down to feel the fear, worry, pain right alongside us. The One who wept at the loss before him, maybe not to the tune of T. Swift, but close enough.

The impetus and pull to church was so very present to me as I backed out of my driveway today. Perhaps you feel it, too. You long to be comforted and told of the One whose words and promises will never fade away, even as we watch what feels like our entire world fading away. So yes, I implore you to be a good neighbor (#stayhome), but also, if you haven’t been to church in awhile or frankly ever, “go” now. Be a part. Find a YouTube channel associated with a church you’ve heard about. Look at the churches in your area offering streaming options. As my friend Shannon said on her Instastories the other day, if you don’t have a church, just log on to Facebook because literally everybody is “sharing” their churches right now. Be so bold as to email the Rector or Head Pastor of a church preaching the Gospel! The best leaders know that this is a time to get it right and are working their buns off; you will be beyond welcomed in, and you will see fruit. I didn’t change out of my pajamas today and had the body of Christ and literal fruit left on my doorstep by the Church. 

May you be fed this week with actual carbs and fresh produce. But may you also be nourished and sustained by the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whatever form it may come, because it will.

 

Image credit: Fred Rogers pauses during a May 27, 1993 taping of his show ” Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)